Fiction

2018

History

By Evita Thadhani
Milton Academy. Class of 2020.

Our town is a town of bricks. Bricks layer our buildings, our walls, our floors in brown and red scales. On the sidewalk
uneven bricks trap women’s heels in their cement gullies. The bricks on our walls chip away. When we press our palms
against their cold jagged surface they cut our skin, and leave it tainted with red dust. If you go to the roof of the Hill Hotel
and Bistro, you’ll look down at our maze of bricks, the shiny golden dome of the State House roasting already in the
morning’s sun. You’ll note the third house on Pinckney street, where two years before, a father came home to his only
daughter hanging from the ceiling, wooden chair faced down on the floor. You’ll see the Church of the Advent pointing to
the sky with its brick tower. Two blocks from the Church you can just make out the Charles Street Meeting house where in
the downstairs side apartment a mother pulls a brush through her daughter’s hair, the movement jerked short with every
encounter of a knot. The daughter asks why they live with so many bricks, and the mother replies that long, long ago
people built with bricks because bricks never catch on fire. And if you let your eyes drift right, you’ll see Tremont Hill
Nursery school, where the mother lowers the backpack from her caved in shoulders, hands it to her daughter, to whom she
whispers,

You should tell me everything. No secrets.

At the church parking lot-- the one you see right there-- the daughter confesses to sneaking soda from the fridge, and the
mother listens. When the daughter recalls how the red haired, stout old principal yelled at her for running in the hallway,
the mother listens. When the daughter cries that she already forgot the code to her locker on the first day of sixth grade, the
mother listens. The mother drives half an hour to pick up her daughter early from school even though they both know the
daughter is not really sick, she just does not want to go to science class. The mother drives two hours to pick up her girl
from summer camp, her girl looks thinner, did she not like the food there? At Cafe Capri you see next to the church the
mother watches her girl methodically cut up the chicken into tiny pieces which are then spread to the corners of the clay
plate to appear as if something was eaten. The girl swats away her mother’s hand as they walk into an office labeled at the
front door “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders” on a grey plaque. You can see the hospital from here, the
glass windows across from the nursery. The mother brings her girl to the doctor once a week, the nutritionist every other
week, the therapist every third week.

They sit silent in the car long after the mother parks in front of the apartment.

The girl rolls her eyes when her mother fills the plate with seconds, thirds. The girl rolls her eyes when her mother
mispronounces words in between loud chewing. The girl hates the way the mother smiles as if the mother knows
everything. The girl hates the way the mother holds herself when sick, shoulders curved in as if expecting to be protected
by someone. The girl has had enough of this town, the old men peering over newspapers at Cafe Capri, the church bells
ringing three times a day, the glare of the State House burning against the sun, the tattooed woman at the cash register of
the drug store, the block parties where all the perfumed ladies breath in the gossip hushed between their lipstick lips, the
old man downstairs who can never get his TV to work.

The bricks, the bricks, so many bricks.

When the girl tells the mother she must leave, the mother cries and the girl doesn't understand why. The mother says she
will miss her daughter, and the girl doesn’t understand why. The mother says she will always love the girl and the girl will
know someday when the girl has her own daughter, but ten years later when the girl holds her daughter, fresh cheeked
plump, the girl still doesn’t understand why.
The call with the news comes from the man downstairs one Friday, his low voice vibrating through the girl’s phone in
static familiarity. The girl comes back to do only what she has to. She opens the apartment to find the mother’s blackened
books, the ashed floor. Staring at the empty bedroom, the girl can almost picture what it would have been like if she had
been the type of daughter who never leaves, if she had been there to call for help. If she had stopped fire, she would have
listened to her mother recount what happened in shaking whispers caught between sobs, she would have reached her arm
around the mother’s broad shoulders, steadying them still. Sitting there on the bed with her mother’s frame squared up
against hers, with the heat of her mother’s skin and the smoke wrapped around her, perhaps another, long desired warmth
would have filled her. But the girl stands at the doorway. She closes her eyes briefly to regain focus. The girl wonders why
she still feels nothing when everything around her begs to be felt.